A team of researchers from National Institutes of Health, in an in-depth study of how Covid-19 affects a patient’s mind, have consistently spotted hallmarks of damage caused by thinning and leaky mind blood vessels in tissue samples. These damage hallmarks were spotted in patients who died shortly after contracting the disease.
Moreover, they saw no signs of SARS-CoV-2 in the tissue samples, suggesting the damage was once not caused by an immediate viral attack on the mind. The results were published as correspondence in the New England Publication of Medicine.
“We found that the brains of patients who contract the infection from SARS-CoV-2 could also be susceptible to microvascular blood vessel damage. Our results propose that this can be caused by the body’s inflammatory response to the virus” said Avindra Nath, M.D., clinical director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) and the senior writer of the study. “We are hoping these results will help doctors understand the full spectrum of problems patients may suffer in order that we will get a hold of better treatments.”
Even though Covid-19 is primarily a respiratory disease, patients ceaselessly experience neurological problems including headaches, delirium, cognitive dysfunction, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of the sense of smell. The disease might also cause patients to suffer strokes and other neuropathologies. Several studies have shown that the disease can cause inflammation and blood vessel damage. In this type of studies, the researchers found evidence of small amounts of SARS-CoV-2 in some patients’ brains. Nevertheless, scientists are still trying to know the way the disease affects the mind.
In this study, the researchers conducted an in-depth examination of mind tissue samples from 19 patients who had died after experiencing Covid-19 between March and July 2020. Samples from 16 of the patients were given by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in New York City while the other 3 cases were given by the branch of pathology at the University of Iowa College of Medicine, Iowa City. The patients died at quite a lot of ages, from 5 to 73 years old. They died inside a couple of hours to two months after reporting symptoms. Many patients had a number of risk factors, including diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. Eight of the patients were found deceased at home or in public settings. Another three patients collapsed and died suddenly.
First of all, the researchers used a special, high-powered magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner that is 4 to 10 times more touchy than most MRI scanners, to inspect samples of the olfactory bulbs and brainstems from every patient. These regions are considered highly susceptible to Covid-19. Olfactory bulbs keep watch over our sense of smell while the brainstem controls our breathing and heart rate. The scans revealed that both regions had an abundance of bright spots, called hyperintensities, that ceaselessly indicate inflammation, and dark spots, called hypointensities, that represent bleeding.
The researchers then used the scans as a guide to inspect the spots more closely under a microscope. They found that the bright spots contained blood vessels that were thinner than normal and occasionally leaking blood proteins, like fibrinogen, into the mind. This seemed to trigger an immune reaction. The spots were surrounded by T cells from the blood and the mind’s own immune cells called microglia. In contrast, the dark spots contained both clotted and leaky blood vessels but no immune response.
“We were totally surprised. Originally, we expected to see the damage that is caused by a lack of oxygen. Instead, we saw multifocal areas of damage that is typically associated with strokes and neuroinflammatory diseases,” said Dr. Nath.
In the end, the researchers saw no signs of infection in the mind tissue samples even if they used several methods for detecting genetic fabric or proteins from SARS-CoV-2.
“So far, our results propose that the damage we saw won’t have been not caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly infecting the mind,” said Dr. Nath. “At some point, we plan to study how Covid-19 harms the mind’s blood vessels and if that produces one of the vital short- and long-term symptoms we see in patients.”
(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.)
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